on May 27, 2005 by Kim Williamson
The second offering from the filmmakers behind "Microcosmos," "Genesis" is the story of all that is as told by an African griot (the Burkina Faso-born Sotigui Kouyate). Griots, per the word's wiki, are "wordsmiths of West Africa who use poetry, proverbs, and rhythm to teach villagers about their history." On the one hand, a contemporary western-science look inside the universe's evolution and workings coming from the mouth of someone who culturally seems a world and an eon away adds an enthralling touch; on the other hand, it's a bit of stunt casting.

In this rapturously photographed effort, the real "stars of the show" are the likes of: the growth of vitamin C crystals; the river of life of spermatozoids; a bullfrog coming out of the mud; a confrontation of sea iguanas; and so on. The images in their visual way match the poetry of the griot's language, and it's obvious much deep contemplation has gone into the film's narrative development; one feels as carried away as is the griot, who at movie's end exeunts in canoe down a jungle river.

If there's a flaw, it's not so much that the whole bears an air of self-satisfaction so much as that the telling carries a potential fleetingness; the solemn assertions are so much a product of second-half 20th-century science that one can imagine viewers several centuries hence smiling at our intellectual quaintness, much as we would today smile at the similarly ardent philosophies of 17th-century naturalists. Starring Sotigui Kouyate. Directed and written by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou. Produced by Alain Sarde. A ThinkFilm release. Documentary. French-language; subtitled. Rated G. Running time: 80 min

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